Karunaratne century takes lead close to 400

Lunch Sri Lanka 111 for 3 (Karunaratne 65*) and 537 lead Zimbabwe 373 by 275 runs
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Debutant Carl Mumba plugged away in the channel outside off and bowled Kaushal Silva for 7 © AFP

At the end of the third day, Zimbabwe captain Greme Cremer outlined their plan: control the flow of runs with tight bowling and in-out fields. The hosts managed to execute it on the fourth morning and earned three wickets, including one off the last ball of the session. They could have had Dimuth Karunaratne too, on 5, but their dropped-chances tally continued to rise. Karunaratne proceeded to make his second half-century of the match, and took Sri Lanka’s lead to 275 at lunch.

Sri Lanka, 5 for 0 overnight, were reduced to 111 for 3. The morning session ended with debutant fast bowler Carl Mumba high-fiving his team-mates after coaxing a leading edge from Kusal Mendis.

Karunaratne stayed unbeaten 65. He has the tendency to reach out and flash outside off stump, but a benign Harare surface allowed him to get away. That he reached out frequently was partly down to Mumba and Chris Mpofu relentlessly probing at a fifth-stump line or occasionally a set of stumps outside off. They were backed up by two slips and a gully to add to four or five men on the boundary in the early exchanges.

A steady supply of dots forced Karunaratne to drive away from his body against a wide delivery from Mpofu. The full ball, however, stopped on him and drew a feeble chip, which was dropped by Brain Chari, diving to his left at extra cover. Karunaratne could have been dismissed for his ninth single-digit score in 14 Test innings. Instead, Zimbabwe dropped their seventh catch in this Test.

Six balls later Kaushal Silva, who had been playing close to his body and as late as possible until then, looked to force the pace. He drove away from the body and chopped an angled delivery onto his leg stump for 7 off 20 balls. Mumba, who had started with back-to-back maidens, reaped reward for not veering away from Cremer’s plan.

Kusal Perera, batting at No. 3, then hit his second delivery to the right of extra cover for four in the 10th over, also the first boundary of the innings. Karunaratne, meanwhile, settled into his shot-making stride with a brace of late-cut fours. They upped the scoring rate and added 55 in 12.5 overs, before part-time offspinner Malcolm Waller struck in his second over to have Perera caught at slip for 17. Waller had looped it up on the rough and got it to spun away to find the outside edge, which was snaffled by Hamilton Masakadza diving to his left at slip.

Cremer then ripped one past the outside edge of Mendis’ defensive poke before Mumba returned and made the breakthrough.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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